Interview with Filmmaker Samantha Ariel Berlanga (WELCOME TO LIFE)

WELCOME TO LIFE, 3min. Black & White Film

Directed by Samantha Ariel Berlanga
The adventure of two runaway marionette’s!

Interview with director Samantha Ariel Berlanga

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I came up with the concept for this film as an assignment for an experimental film class I was taking. The challenge was to film a three minute short on black and white super 8, but all of the shots had to be filmed in sequential order. Contrasting how most filmmaking takes place.

At the time I was feeling almost a bit burnt out by my course load, but I returned back to this old image for a film I’d been carrying in my head. It was supposed to be titled Strings featuring a male protagonist as a marionette imprisoned by his mind. I ran with that theme as I thought it would be perfect for the super 8 medium. I wanted to change my original intention for the film by centering femme characters of color. Tapping into some more personal feelings of mine revolving around my own gender and sexuality. And I just let it come out in this fantastical reality we see the two protagonists navigating through.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Working within the guidelines of shooting in sequential order and only one shot each, we had to shoot within one day. We started at 9 am and went until the sun gave out on us.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Unusual and rebellious!

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Working with actual film! Since it was my first time shooting super 8 I was very stressed about the timing of each shot. And would it actually come out like I had imagined? Everything had to be in one take- it was very high stakes! No do-overs. This required a lot of planning and practice before even touching the camera!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was curious how people’s interpretation would differ from my own, but honestly I think it was well received. After listening to people’s reaction I was pleased with how people could understand the intentionality between the plot and characters. For me this film rebels against societal gender roles and sexuality in a very campy way! Many people took the same things away, but also built their own anecdotes around the characters. I think that is the beauty of filmmaking. Allowing room for people to take and leave their own meanings on your work.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I had the idea for Strings for a while, but the opportunity never actually arose to make it until I took an experimental filmmaking class at my University. From there the project evolved into what is now Welcome to Life.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Hmmm. This is a tough one. Honestly, I lean on “But I’m a Cheerleader” as a comfort film of mine. And I’ve probably watched “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” more times than I can count. That was a very dominating film throughout my youth.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think the festival does a very good job at giving filmmakers opportunities to not only advertise their work, but the voices behind the film. Expanding on that would only further improve the experience!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I like it a lot! It’s very efficient and an intuitive way to submit.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I am vegan. And my current food fixation is angel hair pasta with lots of vegan butter and parmesan! I add some roasted veggies and more vegan cheese on top. So simple, but so filling.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I am continuing to work with super 8. I just released another film titled Whose Stories Do These Hand Hold? The film is an introspective journey, examining personal themes of ancestry, colonialism and identity. Using hands as a portal and guide my past childhood memories blanketed in nostalgia. The making of this film allowed me to give a warm hug to the child in me begging to just be. While all my film work is personal, this one challenged me the most. I struggled between so many different versions of narration, fixating on trying to find the exact words I needed. I scratched my frustrations into the film celluloid. Carry both the rage and love of my ancestors through the process. I look at this film as a love letter to not only my family, but all of those who consider themselves a part of a diaspora.

Director Biography – Samantha Ariel Berlanga

Samantha is a recent Media Studies graduate from the University of San Francisco. She has a passion for storytelling driven by the female gaze. Her films often explore identity and rebellion against stereotypical representation of gender or sexuality.

Director Statement

To be a women is often to be bounded by femininity. Domesticated into a life predetermined by the male gaze. “Welcome to Life” rebells against the trite representation of gender roles and femininity through the journey of two marionettes .


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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